In a very general sense “anchoring” refers to a connection between two things or ideas. It is widely used in marketing in a variety of ways. For example anchoring is involved in the practice of using one high priced product or service option to make other choices seem cheaper or a better choice by comparison. Advertisers use the concept in tying tunes, images or slogans to their product. The idea is to connect a phrase or slogan to a product so that whenever one hears or thinks about the slogan one thinks about the product which in turn influences purchase decisions. We see it all the time in marketing. Maxwell House coffee has used the slogan “good to the last drop” in all of its messaging and advertising since 1917. When we see or think about Maxwell coffee we connect that to the idea that it’s “good to the last drop.” What’s significant is those ads which make you wonder what the connection is to the product are likely designed to create an emotion or state of feeling which they wanted linked to their product. Instead of Maxwell’s slogan Folger’s used a scene “Peter comes home for Christmas” and smells coffee brewing to anchor the emotion with their product. Anchors are used in all advertising.
So, what does that have to do with trial lawyers? It can be applied to the jury or even the judge to create a subconscious reaction or idea with the anchor. They can also be used as generate a personal feeling or attitude or reminder in ourselves as well. In trial, it is possible to connect an exhibit, a phrase, or an action to an idea which will come to the juror’s mind automatically every time the anchor is repeated.
The process is best explained in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP anchoring uses a stimulus; it may be a sound, an image, a touch, smell or a taste to trigger a consistent response in you or someone else. It makes a link, connection or association between the two. Once something has been anchored we react to it at a subconscious level without consciously thinking about it. Anchors are built by repetition and association. You can link, just as advertisers do, anchors associating both images and thoughts. The anchor can be a visual anchor: a photo, an object anything. It may be an auditory anchor just as a song can make you immediately think of an event from the past. The Anchor can also be connected to touch smell or taste.
A simple illustration of creating an anchor in trial could be having a major case theme on a red piece of paper. Each time the theme is repeated the lawyer holds the red paper and speaks from the same physical position and in the same way. After a few repetitions, the lawyer could assume the same physical possession and posture, pick up the red paper, holding it in the same way, but say nothing, yet everyone would immediately think of the theme. That’s because there is a subconscious connection between the anchor of the colored paper. and the words linked to it. Themes repeated are a form of anchor in that it can link the words to an image: “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must aquit” or even “Lying Ted.”
More importantly, the same idea applies to our personal mental state. We can anchor feelings in the same way. Something as simple as reflecting on a time when we felt very confident and self-assured, clearly creating the image and the feeling. In that state we can then physically connect the feeling to something including a phrase or something physical such as touching fingers together in a particular way or putting our hands together in some fashion or any other physical act. This process when repeated several times creates an anchor between the physical and the feeling. By repeating the physical link we will generate the mental feeling. We can, in this way, anchor feelings of confidence or calmness or the like.
Anchoring, therefore, for trial lawyers has two particularly important possible uses. One is like advertising connecting two things together in a courtroom in a way in which we unconsciously generate repeated reactions by the jury or the judge. The other is by anchoring past healthy states of mind to some link of sound, image or touch to produce the feeling of confidence or calm that we need at the time.
Equally important is the proven connection between mind and body. The relationship between mind and body was emphasized in 2012 when Harvard business school professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy presented a TED talk on power poses and how the body impacts the mind. Viewed by tens of millions of people, Cuddy’s TED talk is the second most viewed talk in its history. She has now written a book: Presence: bringing your boldest step to your biggest challenges. Cuddy’s revelation about how body impacts the mind is built on solid science (both psychological and physiological). In her original TED talk she discussed how a “power pose” held for a few seconds to a minute or two can produce in the mind a feeling of self-confidence and courage. Her famous image she used was that of wonder woman with her hands on her hips. What research confirmed was that the assuming of a body position directly influenced the subconscious mind. Just as a physical smile can tend to make us feel happy, a powerful position can produce a feeling of confidence while a body position of dejection produces the opposite.
Her book discusses body language and dealing with feelings of anxiety or a sense of powerlessness in the face of challenges or high-pressure situations. Feeling personally powerful involves knowing our values and being true to them as well as alignment of our thoughts and our feelings in our behavior. The power pose idea involves sending messages to our brain that we are powerful. She says: “let your body tell you that you are powerful and deserving, and you become more present, enthusiastic and authentically yourself.” It’s important to note that she is not talking about this process as a way of intimidating others but rather something that is done for a brief time by yourself to generate the feeling before physically taking action. Clearly it also involves how we stand, position ourselves and use our body language while communicating with others as well. The short TED talk is worth watching to understand the importance of this technique to all trial lawyers.
These two concepts, anchoring and body language producing self-confidence are basic tools for trial lawyers. Before we reject ideas like this as some sort of new age ideas we should take the time to examine the research that has gone into both of these concepts. In advertising the marketing research goes back decades and there is an abundant amount of research as well regarding mind and body.